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#HTML5 saved with radio star: Rise of the musical web

April 29, 2012

Let’s face it, the music industry and the web haven’t had the best relationship as of late, or as of ever.

Music was the first entertainment market to be targeted by online pirates, file-sharers, copiers, distributors and so on. In a nutshell, people took their music collections, put them online, and shared them. The music industry fought back and started suing downloaders.

And that was pretty much set the tone for the relationship between the music industry and the web.

But the times, they are a’changin’. From my vantage point of BD for Mozilla apps initiative, I get some sense as to where developers are devoting their time and talents and I’m amazed by what is going on in the music industry.

I don’t think I can keep up with all the new social music and discovery apps that are out there. Spotify and Pandora are definitely the elder statesmen in this market and they are doing fantastic work. New comers include the very responsive AudioVroom and the massively innovative Earbits.
Then there are guys at MobBase who are taking an active lead in helping artists re-think their online presence, especially on mobile.

I also have it on good authority that we can expect some great things from Atlantic Records, perhaps even around their fantastic Studio1290 property (go ahead, re-size your browser, the site is totally responsive)

And finally, looking to make or share your own music? The web is prime for that as evidenced by Beatlab and the new social wunderkind SoundCloud

This is just a small sampling of the great web apps I’m seeing coming out of the music industry. Trust me, when we launch the Mozilla Marketplace there will be a ton more, a music lovers paradise.

There is more enthusiasm around the web and HTML5 from music than there is from any other media or entertainment industry, at least as far as I can tell. So why is that?

Well, my best guess goes back to how I started this post, with a short history of the torrid relationship between music and the web.

The music industry was the first to be existentially disrupted by the web and therefore it has had the most time to re-group. It was also the first media industry to get spanked by Apple so I guess they figured they couldn’t afford more friends like these so they better sort themselves out.

I wonder if we haven’t see the same webby wonder apps from other media and entertainment industries simply because they haven’t been as turned upside down as music. TV in particular seems to be doing a good job from inoculating itself from the web, by hiding behind apps that require a cable subscription. But I question how long that will last. Movies as well may be somewhat more protected as well because sending movies around requires more bandwidth than may be convenient for some.

Yes, I’m aware of all the TV and movie content on torrents, I guess I’m just saying in relative terms they haven’t been impacted the same way as music, and therefore haven’t felt the same imperatives to innovate.
Could also be that music has a much stronger and longer-lasting indie tradition than other entertainment industries.  The DIY culture is strong in music making so it isn’t a surprise it is also strong in music app making.

The focus of these apps tends to be around the artist or around social discovery. The barrier to entry to music is low so it makes sense a lot of artists are trying to find ways to get themselves notices, and fans are  always wanting new ways to find new music. So artist promotion and music discovery are the emerging app trends.

I won’t claim to understand many (or even a few) of the underlying forces that are changing the music industry. But what I am seeing feels like a perfect story of an industry at all levels embracing the web, new business models being explored, artists willing to take risks, and fans turning to innovative new services to find the content they love.

Things are sounding pretty good for the musical web.

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